The Practicality of Free Medicine

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It is moral to keep the government out of the medical sector because socialized medicine violates the rights of doctors and patients alike. And since man's rights pertain to his freedom to act within a social context, is practical to reduce government involvement in the medical sector because government force in this case renders moot certain decisions each party would make, such as what to charge and what to pay for a given procedure.

One can understand this in the abstract, and yet still want some concrete examples to back himself up when arguing against the enslavement of physicians that politicians of all stripes are considering these days. For this purpose, John Stossel's latest column comes to the rescue:

A doctor in Tennessee I talked to publishes his low prices, such as $40 for an office visit.

Most doctors would say you can't make money this way. But Dr. Robert Berry told me you can. "Last year, I made about the average of what a primary-care physician makes in this country," he said.

Berry doesn't accept insurance. That saves him money because he doesn't have to hire a staff to process insurance claims, and he never has to fight with companies to get paid.

His mostly uninsured patients save money, too. Unlike doctors trapped in the insurance maze, Berry works with his patients to find ways to save them money.

"It's coming out of their pockets. And they're afraid. They don't know how much it's going to cost. So I can tell them, 'OK, you have heartburn. Let's start out with generic Zantac, which costs around five dollars a month.'" When his patients ask about expensive prescription medicines they see advertised on television, he tells them, "They're great medicines, but why don't you try this one first and see if it works?"

Sometimes the $4 pills from Wal-Mart are just as good as the $100 ones.
Aside from the fact that this column, like the others in this series, focuses exclusively on the economic side of the question of whether we should socialize medicine, one flaw is that Stossel, although he made it clear why health insurance is a mess in an earlier installment, sounds too much like he blames health insurance companies for the current economic mess in the medical sector.

(To reiterate his earlier point: The involvement of insurance companies in ordinary medical expenses are also caused by government interference in the economy. Insurance companies will always be concerned with fraud, but this issue should not come up with practically every single doctor's visit.)

Nevertheless, for those of us who understand the immorality of ordering men around at the point of a gun -- and that freedom unleashes torrents of productivity from the men of the mind -- this column offers some valuable intellectual ammunition.

-- CAV

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